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Mike Stout is a former employee at Insomniac Games, who worked as a QA Lead and later a Junior Designer on Ratchet & Clank (2002), Junior Designer on Going Commando, Designer on Up Your Arsenal, and a senior designer on Deadlocked before moving on to Resistance: Fall of Man. He now works independently at his company Interactive Axis and has been contracted for Into the Nexus and Ratchet & Clank (2016). Notably, he also hosts the "uselesspodcasts" with former Insomniac employee Tony Garcia, where they provide among other things developer commentary for the Ratchet & Clank series.

We asked him a few questions about the games behind the scenes on Discord, and his answers are below. This can be cited within pages.

Ratchet & Clank (2002)

Do you know what the unused hoverboard girl cutscenes are about (seen in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v11lTooLLCc ) ? Was there originally some plan for bonus rewards offered if you beat bonus times on the hoverboard races or something?
"I remember those cutscenes. I even remember them being in the build. I'm actually kind of surprised they're not in the final game. It was never the plan to have farmable hover bike challenges in RC1 that I knew of. Not like the ones in Going Commando, at least. I don’t remember what those videos were for, but it looks like they were originally gonna have more than one top time."
Anything you remember about how the Robot Lieutenant fight on Eudora and how it would've gone?
"No, I never saw the design and I never actually saw it implemented in the game."
In the third bonus episode of the Going Commando developer commentary in uselesspodcasts, when you talk about why the "Jet Ski" was cut, you seem to be describing the the Hydro-Pack gadget that never made it into GC (or "Gunsled"?), whereas the "Jet Ski" level referred to in the Museum seems to be talking about an R&C1 gadget. Do you have any clarity on this (there's a good chance I got it mixed up)?
"For Jet Ski, I think we misunderstood the question. There was a jet ski mini game and level planned for RC1 that got cut, and it’s mentioned in the museum. I think that’s what it was referring to."

Going Commando

We can see there are two unfinished weapons in Going Commando - boots that spawn fire when circle is held down, something similar to the Mine Glove where mines connect each other with lasers. Do you remember the reason they were cut, and why we won't read about them in the Insomniac Museum?
"The weapons you're talking about weren't really cut, per se. When we'd start a new Ratchet game, we'd have a phase called pre-production where we'd try out a whole bunch of weapon ideas in very rough form and then pick our favorites to actually put in the game. These two weapons were ones that didn't make it out of preproduction. The reason we didn't include them was that they were both very slow weapons - -and combat in Ratchet & Clank usually goes pretty fast. Enemy lifespans are short -- usually a few seconds -- so weapons that required you to do a bunch of pre-planning and setup, or required you to wait for anything really, didn't feel good. E.G. Why put out a bunch of laser linked mines when you could blow the enemies up faster and better with the shock blaster.
"The other problem was that both weapons required the enemies to run through them in order for them to be effective. You'd lay down mines or a trail of fire and then the enemies would only be hurt IF they happened to run near the damage area. Ratchet enemies don't tend to do that. Usually the enemies tend to run around in their area with their cover and Ratchet runs around in his area with his cover, and the two don't overlap a ton (with the exception possibly of swarmers). A lot of this was because we didn't have any kind of comprehensive pathfinding solution in the early Ratchet games, but a lot also had to do with making the questions the combats were asking you make sense."
Also found in the files of Going Commando is the Glove of Doom, though it doesn't function. Likewise, in Up Your Arsenal, the fully functional Bomb Glove is found, along with a non-functional Sheepinator. Were these left in as placeholders for testing purposes, or is there another reason?
"Most of the time, stuff that's left in is there because we didn't realize it was there. We'd only really go in and remove things when the level was out of memory, and then we'd focus on the things that cost the most memory. We also didn't usually remove things from Ratchet unless we had to, since Ratchet was the most complicated piece of code in the engine, pretty much -- and changing little things could have big knock-on effects as far as making bugs."
In Going Commando's files, there are lines from the Help Desk lady and from Slim Cognito that sound like they're used while the player is browsing the vendor, like how the vendor in Ratchet & Clank spoke while browsing. Was there a reason they were dummied out after being recorded?
"Are the audio for those lines actually on the disc? Or was it just text? A lot of times, text never even got recorded, is why I ask" (we can interpret this as meaning he doesn't remember specifically)
In Going Commando, there is unused text for a mission to take out the defenses at the space entrance to Megacorp's Headquarters, another ship mission, though there are no assets for this mission found. Angela did also mention "Megacorp's orbital defenses are nasty", a reference to this. Were the developers just unable to finish this mission?
"I don't remember us ever building that ship mission -- so I think that one was cut before any work was done on it. The ship missions were basically as complex as making a whole new game, and we had two programmers basically working full time on them. That wasn't ideal because we needed those programmers to work on normal levels. So my guess is we cut that early on so that those programmers could spend their time on other things. The artwork was also similarly expensive -- each of those levels took an entirely new set of art, and at least one artist's time for a full cycle to make -- so having fewer makes more sense."
On the subject of voice lines, there are also voice lines found for Clank in scenes he doesn't appear - when encountering the Thug Leader on Megapolis (as it was possible for the player to fight the Leader without Clank) and obtaining the second Wrench upgrade in the Flying Lab on Aranos. Does this plus Angela's line about a cut mission above suggest that voice lines were recorded very early in development? Or were missions/scenarios created before the story was fully developed.
"The way production worked was like this: Every team worked in 5 week cycles. Design would spend 5 weeks making a cycle's worth of level designs (documents that detailed the levels, the enemies, and everything that was in them) and sometimes a rough block-oout of the level. The levels would then go to Art and Animation to make the assets that went into them. The programmers would also spend a cycle making everything work in the level. Then the level would come back to the designers who would tweak everything for a cycle. The VO and writing schedules didn't work in cycles. They happened independently -- so sometimes lines would be recorded and then later on the part of the game they were for would be cut or changed, so they'd never get used. Sometimes we'd actually implement them, and then decide we didn't want them anymore for one reason or another. So lines often got written or recorded and then not used."
There's a Monsterpedia entry for an enemy known as the "Attack Ship" on Grelbin. Is there a reason this was removed?
"That was gonna be a boss fight. It got cut because Grelbin had too much stuff in it, and couldn't fit in memory. Tony and I discuss the fight in one of the Grelbin episodes of Developer Commentary if you'd like to hear more about it."
Another unused Monsterpedia entry is the Thugs-4-Less Leader's Giant Mech on Snivelak. Now this entry actually shows his mech used on the Giant Clank battle. Was that mech going to be used for both battles originally?
"Not that I remember. I think that image was just a placeholder asset."
Related to a previous R&C1 question - did the armory employee in Todano, that one that gives the Armor Magnetizer in exchange for the Qwark statue, have a different name before he was named Stuart Zurgo in Full Frontal Assault?
"In development, he was just called the Superfan or the Fanboy. I don't think we ever named him."
Regarding the empty pipes in Endako, these would have originally transported robots through them, and in old trailers we can see the space tourists walk through them. Were these removed due to memory issues?
"It was a couple of things. The biggest was that I couldn't make the tourists look like they were sorting behind the glass. Because it was a tube and there was glass on both sides, trying to insert an object in between resulted in weird sorting bugs that we weren't going to fix for this one time we needed it.
"They also took up memory, and that level was tight."
In uselesspodcasts, on the Maktar Resort, you said that Peter Hastings gave the Thugs-4-Less Brutes different scales, and then a bug report was filed for “enemies not all same scale”. What happened after that? Did they get given the same scale, or were the different scales kept?
"I think they still have slightly different scales. I also think they're randomly either right or left-handed."
"In early builds for Going Commando, we can see that ship upgrades in the Ship Shack and weapon mods in Slim’s mod shops are just purchased with normal bolts, instead of raritanium or platinum bolts respectively. Any idea the decision behind changing currency? On that note, do you know why raritanium was originally called “ore” as referenced in some early builds?"
"When the feature was implemented, the raritanium and platinum bolts hadn't been put in yet. We wanted to user test the feature so we made it cost bolts."
Why were the landing pages/legs on the Star Explorer, as seen in earlier builds, removed in favor of just having the ship hover on the ground?
"When we planned the ship, we didn't know that we'd have that cool "bouncing" tech. That just came out of nowhere one day when Peter Hastings sent out an email saying "Oh, btw, I have this way of making things wobble when you jump on them." It was so cool we put it everywhere we could."
Repeatedly killing tourists on Todano does nothing. Was it supposed to do something? Also, is the reason why the tourists constantly appear and can be killed over and over related to a for loop or something (i.e. if there are less tourists than the required number, add more tourists in), and the decision was to put in joke angry messages rather than change the programming to prevent that?
"I originally wanted to have robots appear and attack you when that happened. I ran out of time and couldn't do it, and the other programmer working on the level didn't have time either. That level came in very hot."
Where did the idea of adding the optional swamp monster II boss come from?
"He was originally just going to be a boss at the end of the level. He was super hard, though -- and there wasn't a very good way to make him easier that didn't also make him less fun or trivialize him. So it was decided to put him in an optional area.
"One of the overriding Ratchet design philosophies is that we rarely drop huge difficulty spikes on the main path -- but the optional paths could be as hard as we wanted."
On Maktar Resort, the flying screens have hidden images of Jak and Daxter, which can’t be seen by normal means. Were these going to be more easily viewable in-game at one point in development?
"I think it did show up at one point and it was turned off. If memory serves it was just showing up too often."
You said in uselesspodcasts episode 2 that the new voice for the HelpDesk went through several iterations. Was this referring to a new voice added specifically for Going Commando (and that the original plan was not to just reuse the same voice from R&C1 in Going Commando)? Or was this referring to the beta voice of the HelpDesk from R&C1 (seen in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IF55hwkrsc ) and she was always supposed to reuse the R&C1 voice?
"I was referring to the helpdesk voice from RC1. As you heard, there was a british take that went in for a bit before being replaced. I think there were other versions.
"I kind of remember them attempting to change the voice for RC2 or RC3 and then going back, but I don't know if I'm making that up or not."
In uselesspodcasts for GC episode 2, you called the Tractor Beam one of your "failures" as a designer. Was this related to the challenges, or the gadget?
"I talk a lot about the inspector bot here: https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134273/evaluating_game_mechanics_for_depth.php?page=1
"In summary, there are 2 main reasons:
  1. The tractor beam mechanics all asked the player the same question.
  2. Most of the mechanics didn't communicate the questions to the player very well at all.
"1- The inspector bot needs to get picked up and moved a pad or a slingshot. The bomb needs to be picked up and moved to a door... These are all the same questions. Moving the rockets was a new set of questions, which is why I think that worked. But even those had problem #2.
"2- In the first drafts, we didn't have the theatrics that communicated what the player was supposed to do with the Inspectorbot. To fix that, we added the footprints on the pad and the theatrics when you step on the pad without the robot. The first drafts of the rockets had similar issues.
"Hope that helps. Let me know if you need more."
In uselesspodcasts episode 9 part 2 for Going Commando, you said you proposed the Groovitron as the "Rainbow-Afrolizer" but the PS2 couldn't handle it. Wasn't the Groovitron proposed for R&C1 too, or was Going Commando the first time it was proposed?
"It wasn't my proposal. Another designer proposed it, but I don't remember which. I'm not sure if it was ever proposed for RC1, but the first time I heard it was RC2.
"The other reason we couldn't do it was the animators at that time didn't really want to add one dance animation per character to their workload. They already had a lot on their plates."

Up Your Arsenal

I noticed how rather than have two arenas and two collectible places like Going Commando did, Annihilation Nation is used twice and the Aquatos sewers is the only one. Was this to save resources while working on multiplayer?
"When we made Going Commando, we found out that those levels were really hard to make and took a disproportionate amount of resources. Making two sets of arena fights in one arena level was exponentially cheaper than making two sets in two different arena levels for a lot of reasons. That went double for the mining levels, since those had to be HUGE in order to work. So we made the decision early on to just have one level for each, but with more content on each that you could unlock later in the game."
You've mentioned there was an idea for space combat in Up Your Arsenal similar to Star Fox that was cut (brought back in Tools of Destruction, though I know you didn't work on that one). Is the ship customization vendor in Starship Phoenix, which lets you change the color and design like the shack from Going Commando, a remnant of this?
"The ship customization was a feature we liked in Going Commando. If there had been Space Combat, you likely would have been able to upgrade your ship for that too -- but when it was cut, we made it so you could only buy skins and visual upgrades for the ship. It gives the player something else to do with bolts once they've bought all the weapons and armor."
We know from the Insomniac Museum that Florana was going to include the Turboslider mission (and unused text suggests the Crashed Leviathan ship was going to contain a race track as well). Was this replaced with the Path of Death as Qwark's challenge?
"No, the path of death was always supposed to be in the level. If there had been a race, it would have been on top of all the stuff that was in Florana already."
Was there a major reason why the developers chose to make progression in Up Your Arsenal more linear, in that it was now impossible to arrive on a planet, and be unable to progress due to missing a gadget found on another planet?
"Nobody ever said "let's make this game more linear," it just sort of ended up that way. Some of it was probably from the things that were cut, but again, it wasn't intentional. The game's progression gets planned very early on in a document we call the Macro. The Macro decides what planets link to what other planets, and which gadgets you need to progress and all that. When we cut stuff after that, the macro has to change in such a way that least impacts the game's schedule (not changing the story, not having to change cutscenes, not having to add more content to levels, etc) -- so that's probably why it ended up more linear."
Unused text suggests that there were going to be In-Level Movies and Shortcuts accessed from the Extras menu, brought back from Ratchet & Clank and Going Commando respectively. Why were these removed?
"I don't remember ever planning on that stuff, so I'm not sure if it was ever in the plan and it got cut, or if it was just a remnant from Going Commando."
There seem to be unused text for Tyhrra-Guise conversations. Were there going to be more conversations used in the final level?
"Yeah, there were gonna be more Tyhrraguise conversations in the final level. I don't remember why they were removed, though."
There appear to be references to a "Hydrogen Gun", "BullHorn", "Tresspasser 2", "Omnipack" and "Mini-mech" gadget within the files. Do you remember what these were?
"Those are mostly development names for features. Some made it in and some didn't. Trespasser 2 is a reference to the Infiltrator. The bullhorn was supposed to be something you used in the battlefield segment to command the galactic rangers, but I don't remember us ever implementing it. The omnipack is a reference to the combined heli/hydropack, basically. I don't remember the Hydrogen gun. With the Mini-Mech, it was a multiplayer feature that never got off the ground. The idea was that it would be possible to summon a mech that would help you take over the enemy base. It was kind of like an AT-AT from Star Wars."
I know you said that there were things removed from the singleplayer because of multiplayer resources (such as the racing missions and space combat), but how early on in development did you know you'd be including multiplayer?
"Multiplayer was part of the plan in Up Your Arsenal from the beginning. It meant splitting our team into two teams though -- one large team that worked on Single player and a smaller team that worked on Multiplayer. The racing and Space combat weren't removed because of that, though. They were removed because the single player team didn't have time to do them along with everything else that was planned for singleplayer. Keep in mind that racing and space combat are, as I mentioned before, basically like making an entirely separate game in terms of how many resources they cost -- so cutting them gave us a lot of resources to do other things. Racing was shaping up pretty well, and might have been really fun, but was very costly to make. Space combat wasn't shaping up very well, and there were enough problems with it that it wasn't worth going forward with it."
What was the reason behind reusing Going Commando weapons for Up Your Arsenal multiplayer?
"When we started prototyping MP, the weapons for SP hadn't been made yet. So the two got made apart from each other and slowly brought together. But it meant there were some artifacts like the re-use."
Do you know why the multiplayer weapons in UYA are lower in polygon count compared to their Going Commando counterparts? ( see Minirocket Tube for a comparison)
"In SP, you're never playing in split-screen. We needed the assets to be more efficient so that if they were rendered 2-4 times more than in SP they wouldn't break the framerate. All the level geometry is lower poly for that reason as well. It's why in Deadlocked a lot of the stuff feels sharper and like it has more edges. The art style allows us to use fewer polys and get splitscreen."

Deadlocked

Was multiplayer intrinsic to whatever game would turn out to be the 4th game?
"Co-op was always a big part of the plan, yeah. I didn't even remember that we did competitive MP in DL. I don't think a lot of people played it, though."
Is it true that there were talks to make a "Ratchet Racing" game that was scrapped because Naughty Dog were making Jak X: Combat Racing?
"Yeah. The original game we were going to make (and we even did some preproduction work on) was going to be a battle racing game. But when we found out that Jak X was already in development, we scrapped that because Sony didn't need two mascot racing games in the same year."
Plans for "Ratchet & Clank: Nexus" (not to be confused with Into the Nexus), a concept for a game taking place on a single planet about a conflict between two races in which Ratchet and Clank had differing ideas, is a darker story than seen in past games. Was there always the notion that, after Up Your Arsenal, you all wanted to move onto a darker narrative?
"I'm not sure where the "Ratchet & Clank: Nexus" stuff came from. I don't remember ever talking about anything like that for Deadlocked. The darker tone of Deadlocked, like most of our design decisions, was based around us wanting to make something different. After 3 Ratchet games in a row for three years, we were all tired and wanted to do something new. There wasn't a lot of will to make "just another ratchet game." When we moved away from making the racing game, we came up with a lot of ways to make the new Ratchet game "not just another Ratchet game." The more serious storyline was one of them, along with splitting up Ratchet and Clank and having a different structure to the levels. The original idea was to have them be more like the battlefield sections from RC3 -- but as whole levels. Levels that could be approached in different ways and which weren't linear. That plan didn't work out, though, so we retrofitted all the levels we designed for that plan to be more linear normal ratchet levels. I talk a bit about this in my Deadlocked commentary with Tealgamemaster on youtube."
Unused files show a rescue mission involving Hydrogirl, a hero who only appeared at the end cutscene in the final version, but there are several unused lines relating to a mission with her. Why was this removed?
"I don't remember. I think that happened after I'd moved onto Resistance."
What was the general feeling by Insomniac after the game was released? I know multiplayer has never been included in a Ratchet game since, and the games seem to rarely mention it. Did Insomniac just feel that they didn't want to try and take the series in that direction again?
"The multiplayer features weren't very widely used. They had a small group of people who loved it, but I think maybe 3% or less of the people who bought the game actually used those features. It was certainly less than 10%. Since it took up an enormous amount of resources, and so few people used it, I think they decided those resources were better spent on making the single player sections. I think Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time proved them right in that regard."

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